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Happy White Day!

Today, I woke up at 4:00 AM feeling very rested after sleeping a full 10 hours. Despite my initial misgivings, the 2-inch thick mat (in Korean, it is called a “yo”) that is on my bed in place of a mattress is actually very comfortable – once I get to sleep.

I awoke inspired to write. For the first time in at least two months, I finally took the time to journal my experiences so far in Korea. I was immensely satisfied with my accomplishments of waking up early AND  writing – two rare occurrences in my AL  (after law school began) life.

I entered the classroom for my first class, Global Antitrust Law, at 8:00 AM, hoping to be early enough to meet other students before the class commenced at 8:30. No one entered the classroom until 8:35 when the professor entered and began talking to me about my interest in human rights. After fifteen more minutes, one other student appeared, and we discovered that the class just might be canceled if not enough students decide to attend (the minimum for a class to be kept is five students).

After the class, I went to the office and got a student locker. The first key I was given opened a locker that was already being used, so I went back a second time to use my new key. This was for Locker # 13… it is a good thing I am not superstitious because waiting on my locker was a heart-shaped sticky note with the words written in capital letters: “Happy White Day!”

I am sure it was leftover from last semester, but the irony certainly brightened my day. I so far was the only white student in all of my law classes, something that until that moment of reading the note hadn’t really affected me. But as I was standing by the locker, excited squeals, laughter, and giggles as only girls can produce were echoing around me, and I had that feeling of being an outsider. A white outsider. Race-consciousness is a funny thing: I have decided I will refuse to let it bother me and I will not let it bother my relationships with others, but for all that, it is still semi-alive, lurking somewhere in the back of my consciousness.

There have been many very kind students here – it is not that I do not feel welcome. Many of the girls have gone out of their way to do things like eat lunch with me, or show me a classroom, or translate Korean for me. I feel very welcome. But I do feel very different, and it is almost as though everything I try or need to do requires someone else to help me somehow. Being independent, I hate this because 1) it limits me, 2) it makes me look incredibly incompetent, 3) it reminds me that I am a complete rookie and outsider, and 4) it causes someone else to be burdened.

Today was yet another day of learning more options and how behind I am when it comes to human rights and international law. I’m taking mostly upper level electives in international law and it is therefore disturbing to think that I’ve not had any basic introductory courses in international law before jumping into all of this. It is as though I am way ahead of expectations for myself, considering my background and personal history and opportunities, but for where I hope to be or where I want to be now, I am very behind.

Or maybe I just feel that way. Who knows yet? I suppose that remains to be seen this semester.

Tonight after my last class ended around 4:15, I decided to be brave and try Korean instant soup/noodles. I bought a few different varieties at the convenience store and as everything was in Korean, I had no idea what I was purchasing. My first experience with the Korean version of Ramen soup was definitely not boring! Not knowing what was in the seasoning packet, I happily dumped all of it in the hot water/noodle mixture, eager to taste the yummy-looking noodles. I proudly trotted over to a table with my soup and took my first bite. I am not sure which happened first: my tongue feeling like it had been coated with jalepeno pepper seeds, or my throat feeling like fire was coursing down it. Swallowing the noodles unleashed a fit of unstoppable deep coughing. (In my defense, I still have a very bad sounding cough that I frequently had to suppress today in class…) I’m sure the other people in the recreation room where I was eating were getting immense entertainment by my obviously first encounter with Korean noodles. Determined that I was going to finish that soup for dinner or do without, I decided that I’d just try to avoid the broth and eat the noodles. After about five bites, my new plan seemed to be working – or maybe my taste buds had simply become numbed. Either way, I ate most of the soup and actually quite enjoyed it!

All in all, my first day of classes was a success. I was definitely reminded that I was not in Kansas anymore, but I don’t feel any desire to click the heels of my ruby red slippers. I like Korea! Happy White Day!

In Now

The sunshine disappears as tunnel blackness envelops the metro car. I am now on the metro. An occasional light blurs by the window as the familiar combination of screeching, scratching, and clacking noises assaults my ears. Riding the metro is somehow enjoyable, grungy orangish-red carpets and all. Perhaps it is the speeding of the train, or the feeling of not being in control but simply a passenger along for the ride. Perhaps it is the constant rushing. Whatever it is, it reminds me that I am in the now. It reminds me that time never waits.
My first day in Fairfax, I got lost. I had never navigated my way around before, and I could not find the office. My boss had told me to come by on Sunday afternoon so I could get a “test run” in before Monday. After finally going several miles past the office, I called my boss to get directions. “Great,” I thought, “what a way to make an impression…I can’t even find my way around the less crowded area of town!”
I eventually arrived at the office. I knew my internship was going to be crazy when after a few minutes, my boss informed me that I was going to be putting “at least” forty hours a week in. I was determined to give it my best shot, and I was excited to get to finally begin. That day was symbolic of the hurry that I’ve since experienced. Life is rushed; I am always rushing, always tired, never completing what I hoped to, often feeling lost.
My first day seems so far off now. I’ve only been here a little over three weeks, but already, the first few days seem like a distant thought. On the actual first day, I got a crash course in Nigerian history and current crises. Within five days, I had read about 3,000 pages on Nigeria, not counting the 15+ hours of online research I’d conducted. By the end of the second week, I had drafted an analysis that was over 20 pages for the International Criminal Court. I’ve been able to attend the emergency Congressional hearing on Chen Guangcheng, the blind and incredibly brave Chinese activist, and I have attended various press conferences and human rights meetings. I am currently working on getting a terrorist organization designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
If you would have told me several weeks ago that I would have only two weeks in which to research and write the draft for the International Criminal Court, I would have said you were crazy and that I could never do it. But I’m learning that God is faithful to always provide strength and the ability to accomplish whatever is asked of me.
The people surrounding me on the metro look worn, tired. Vacant stares adorn most faces. Vacant, yet alive. Not like the vacant stare of a corpse.
Reading the accounts of post-election violence in the twelve northern states of Nigeria (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara), of the thousands of lives claimed by the militant Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram; learning of the recurring violence in the Jos area of Plateau State, the thousands who have died in senseless killings, especially Christians; reading account after account of deaths caused me to become calloused to the violence. I couldn’t allow myself to be in the now. I couldn’t fully empathize: I was overwhelmed with the deadline and time crunch, so I would work 9-11 hours a day during the week, trying to speed through just to get everything read. I knew that if I were to really understand the violence and its consequences, to really feel what was possible for me to comprehend of the loss caused by the violence, I would be incapable of getting out of bed for the rest of the summer. But mostly, if I were to allow myself to fully comprehend what I was reading, to understand as fully as possible – for me, a person who has never been threatened with violence, let alone, death – I would be slowed down from the reality of just now -the now that seems to consume all else, the living that strangles the life, limits, the rushing to meet another deadline like a rushing to board a crowded metro before it speeds away.
At the office, I live in just now. But in DC, I live in the now. Having to go to DC for various meetings and Congressional hearings gave me the chance to sit on the metro with nothing better to do than think. It allowed me to walk to my destinations. Although life was always fast-paced, DC actually allowed me to slow down and remember that I have a life, that I am not simply living.
Realizing that one must keep sight of life while living is bittersweet. It seems impossible to actually have a life while there are so many deadlines, so much to learn and do, so much evil to fight; so much living to choke the life out. Unless, and here’s the trick, one’s life consists of living the just nows as the nows. Then every second is full of life.
A few days ago, I watched actual film footage of the violence in Jos during 2011. Corpses waiting to be buried cover the ground while women and men wander around them in a state of shock, confusion, and terror. Some corpses are mutilated from bomb explosions; others have been dismembered with machetes; still others have been beheaded. The charred remnant of one corpse was visible in the midst of smoking ruins of a house in which the person had been burnt alive along with her small child. In Jos, and most other areas of Nigeria experiencing violence, most of the victims are Christians. Their only crime is to be a Christian; for that, they are slaughtered. Yet the Nigerian federal government, rather than protecting its people from such brutalities, fails to provide security from violent (often Muslim) murderers and even instigates the violence, in some instances.
It is so difficult not to be overwhelmed with how limited my knowledge, skills, and time are in comparison to the magnitude of suffering experienced by not just those in Nigeria but around the world. There is so much injustice, so much evil: I could spend my entire life madly trying to fight evil, but I will simply be running in circles if I do not remember the Life. Jesus promised that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He said that in this world we will have trouble, but we should “take heart” because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
I am living now. I am living the now. I am here for such a time as this. We all are. God has commanded us to love others and given us all opportunities and platforms from which to do so. Romans 12:21 says to not be overcome with evil, but instead to overcome evil with good.
The train arrives at my stop. I exit the car and head up the crowded escalator, letting people hurriedly pass. I’m walking to a symposium on issues relating to the Korean Peninsula. My ever-present doubts tag along, making my feelings of inadequacy come back. I haven’t studied anything on Korea in over a year. And yet, somehow I push those feelings back and continue walking, knowing that I am where God wants me and doing what He has directed me to. I will move forward with His strength, not mine.
I have so much yet to learn about human rights advocacy in general, as well as learning to consciously place my faith in God to work things out for His glory while I simply take one step of faith at a time, trusting Him to work out the larger picture. I must learn to keep sight of His Life rather than my strivings and attempts at living without Him. When I am tempted to entertain feelings of inadequacy and doubts as to whether any change really can be effected, I must remember the God who is unconstrained by time and limits. Now. In this moment, I must know that He has always been, and always will be, God. When I surrender my just nows to Him and remember that every moment He gives is precious, a new opportunity to live and enjoy His presence, the stressful and tiring just nows become the nows. Rather than not having time to live because we’re too busy living, we may experience life fully. Every glorious moment of it. Which now will you choose?

Never Again

I’m through. I am not ever going to be passive when it comes to relationships again. I have too little time and too many standards to allow time to be taken by people who do not share similar life goals. Now, the trick will be sticking to my goals and not getting side-tracked with alluring distractions. This summer will prove to be a very good growing experience… if I can survive it!

Hebrews 12: Remember the goal and don’t lose heart!

Friday Night in Law School

It’s Friday night, and I am in the hallowed halls of the third floor law library, enjoying the silence and emptiness that both reminds me I am dedicated to my work and I have no social life.
I’m definitely OK with the first, and the second doesn’t really bother me yet.
Oddly enough, I’m learning to love studying in the library. I’ve always loved libraries, but until a few weeks ago, I never felt like I could study here very well. It seemed too forced, too cold and unforgiving.
But now that I’ve softened my discipline and given in to the temptation of sleep when I should be studying, I’ve discovered that the forced stiffness and unforgiving coldness of the library keeps me focused and encourages productivity.
So far, this semester has been… simply going. It’s not been as horrible, nor as noteworthy, as I had been expecting. I have survived weeks of less than five hours of sleep each night, read around 1,600 pages, taken two exams, and written three papers. It’s been like a continuous marching into the cold. Each mile marched seems colder and harder than the previous: cold feet begin to hurt, soreness settling in deeper with each step; legs start giving way as the weight they hold up seems to increase with each movement; breathing becomes more painful and sharp as the cold increases and the lungs tire. The saving numbness that inevitably comes softens the sharpness, while simultaneously increasing the deadness that each step seems to bring closer.
I’d never felt overwhelmed until Fall Break. I worked over 50 hours on writing a paper that seemed determined to elude me. I cannot ever remember experiencing writer’s block more acutely. Headaches, fatigue, slight depression – mostly felt only for a few hours before final papers would be due in undergraduate work. This was a new beast for me.
Until that point, I’d been keeping up in class for the most part, I felt like I could keep up with the material and concepts (with the occasional crazy topic throwing me) for the most part, and, dare I say, I was beginning to think that law school really wasn’t that tough…
Then came the paper.
God gave me strength to finish it, and somehow I have survived the past two weeks before it was due. I handed it in on Wednesday, and I’ve never been so thankful to be finished with a project as I was for this!
I am rambling.
That’s ok… I rarely get to indulge in rambling thoughts anymore. They all must be structured in IRAC form: Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. Briefs, papers, thoughts. Boring? Maybe. I rather enjoy it. But I do miss the creative writing that I was able to do in the last few years.
This week has made me realize how quickly time has been passing since I’ve come to school. It has already been three months almost. I feel like it has been less than two weeks some days and a lifetime.
So many contradictions.
I wanted to go to a student-hosted bonfire tonight with the 1L class, but then I felt tired this afternoon and decided I’d rather sleep, then I remembered that I hadn’t outlined Torts or Contracts in over a month, and finals are coming up in about a month, and… here I am in the library.
I love being surrounded by so many books. Three floors of books, rows and rows of law reviews, law encyclopedias enough to keep me busy for ten lifetimes, horn books and treatises in abundance, everywhere I look is some gem of legal theory, explanation, or decided law.
I am meant to be here. I love this life. As pathetic as it sounds, I love being able to throw myself wholeheartedly into my studies. I am so deliciously independent right now – no one is depending on me, no one is adversely affected if I put in 15 hour study days, I can bring my work home with me, and if I want to, I can spend the rest of my life inside the library eating up information as fast as my greedy mind can grab it.
The only regrettable aspect of law school that I can see right now is its constant demands on my time. The steady deluge of assignments and mostly reading, keeps me focused on Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, Property, and Christian Foundations of the Law instead of those whom I’m here fighting for.
But I’m trusting God to maintain that passion – I know it is not gone, it is simply taking backseat to my learning. Once I learn more, I will be able to apply what I am learning to the problem, and I will become fully engaged again.
Honestly, it feels amazingly good to know that I am, right this minute, doing something to prepare myself for that fight. Knowing the fight will never lessen, the intensity will only increase, is both scary and thrilling. I cannot imagine going back now, nor do I want to. If I let myself, I can become worried about whether I’ll have the strength to continue, but then I remind myself that worrying about my strength is wasting what strength God has provided.
To wrap this up (after all, I really DO need to start outlining the elements of assault and battery…!!!), I’d have to say that I’ve finally found my niche. And it is at the corner table near a window on the third floor of the law library with my laptop, apple, Poptarts, 2 liter bottle of water, and books.

Spring Reading List

Of Civil Government – Locke

Criminal Procedure – Dowling

Law 101 – Feinman

Hidden Gulag – David Hawk

In Defense of Global Capitalism – Norberg

Politics – Aristotle

Democracy in America – Tocqueville

Introduction to Law – Hames and Ekern

Wealth of Nations – Smith

Bridging the Gap between College and Law School – Stropus and Taylor

Law School Confidential – Miller

Dear Heart

“Oh heart, you let me down
Chasing love where it can’t be found

Dear heart, you’re in the wrong place
Looking out for yourself, no matter what I say
And I know that you’re holding me back
And it’s time for a change, so I’m giving you away.”

-“Dear Heart” by Sanctus Real

Hero

Heroes are made when you make a choice.
You could be a hero, heroes do what’s right.
You could be a hero, you might save a life.
You could be a hero, you could join the fight for what’s right…


-Hero, by Superchick

I’ve made my choice. I am applying to law school with the intention of getting my basic law degree (Juris Doctor) then going on and getting my Master of Laws in International Law with an emphasis in Human Rights.

What made me change me mind and exchange wanting to attend PhD programs in English Literature for wanting law school?
We need more heroes. Over 200,000 men, women, and children in North Korea are being unjustly tortured, starved, and murdered for crimes that are either not crimes or were not committed by the people being punished.
We are all standing back and just watching the Holocaust repeat itself. We get angry about the first Holocaust, blast Hitler and Stalin soundly from our safe history classrooms, but we are now as guilty as those living during that time who looked the other way instead of standing up to evil.

We need heroes. Heroes who join the fight for what’s right. Heroes who win wars one day of battle at a time.

I want to save a life, I want to be a hero.

Ful welle  haf  I tryd to mastere the dreade mid englishe romances, but thei wyne evry tyme.

Ich wile seyen you for-wi:

Ich am sho, who bot in thaire faith es noght bot fabil,

ne for no manere of fayntise,

ne for no I denyd noght for-to rise

that I ne had resen had I it sene.

I am not exactly sure what I just said, but it should be something along the lines of  “I cannot fully understand nor repeat Ywain and Gawain.

And I had been thinking that Spenser’s Faerie Queene was difficult!

Actually, once I get in the right frame of mind, and begin to read out loud in my head, I am surprised at how much I can actually understand in Middle English as well as Spenser’s more modern English. I do actually enjoy reading it…if I have time enough to spend on it!

Willing to Risk It All?

Am I willing to risk it?

To really love others, at my own risk?

It seems like people are forever talking about taking risks in love, mainly romantic love, but the risks they speak of involve mostly physical, sometimes emotional, risks in exchange for the reward of  either love, or what they perceive to be love. But to really risk everything, in exchange for nothing for oneself, this is love. The irony of course, is that when we do risk everything for others’ benefit, and not our own, we are benefitted most. But when done exclusively for the benefit it gives oneself to give to others, is it love? And, if it is not, can one receive the reward?

It seems so easy for me  to be willing to risk all for God, to risk it all out of my love for Him. But, while it is easy for me to be willing, it is not so easy to commit to actually risking it.

To risk having my pride trampled, being taken advantage of, becoming destitute, losing control, being a nobody – it all seems so easy to say ‘yes’ to in theory, but it is so easy to say ‘no’ to in practice.

I am reminded of  1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.

If one follows this passage and takes the “risks,” he or she would in effect take the risks of being late, being scorned, being ignored, being cheated, being wronged, being hurt (physically and emotionally), being lied to, being stepped on, being overlooked, etc.

But, if one does take those risks, he or she would be able to have the “most excellent way.” It certainly is worth it. So why don’t I take the everyday risks more? Is my own selfishness really so powerful?

I say I am willing to risk it all, even my life, for Christ. But when it comes to daily taking up my cross and following Him, and so loving Him and others, does my willingness show?